Preservation of American Hellenic History
Company C 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion also known as Greek / American United States Operational Group (Greek/USOG), an elite unit of commandos who fought in Greece during WWII, were honored 26 May 2005, in a ceremony held by the Greek Ministry of Defense at the Armed Forces Park in Athens, Greece.
Members of the Greek/USOG family who attended the festivities were veterans Nicholas H. Cominos and his wife Joan, Angelo Lygizos, Andrew S. Mousalimas and his wife Mary; widows and relatives of the veterans: Mrs. James Andros, Mrs. George Portolas, Mrs Vasili Portolas, Mrs James Thomas and son Sammi; Cris Georgalos (sister of Tom P. Georgalos), Katerina Tsouras (niece of James Frangias), and Kostas Katsilanis (nephew of Lambros Makris).
The statue depicting an American soldier of a Greek/USOG was unveiled by the Greek Minister of Defense, Mr. Spilios Spiliotopoulos, in the presence of representatives of all the Armed Forces of Greece, six representatives of the American Embassy including four military attaches, and guests.
Mr. Spiliotopoulos, presented to the Greek/USOG veterans a Greek military medal and affirmed:
American volunteers had fought together with Greek resistance forces for the liberation of Greece. The actions of the Greek American Volunteers express in general their contribution in all our nation's struggles and exemplifies the attachment to modern Greece with the ancient values and ideals of our Hellenism. We consider our Hellenes abroad as one of the most important contributors to our nation's strength. In all difficult occasions, they continually contribute valuable services to our nation.
Constantine Korkas, Lieutenant General (ret) delivered a brief history of the Greek/USOG. Copies of a documented history edited by General Korkas and published in Greek by the Department of Military History, were given to everyone in the gathering. Titled The Greek-American Volunteers in the [Greek] National Resistance, the book is a collection of official documents, detailed accounts, translated into Greek from the files of the National Archives of the United States. The book also contains photographs and maps of the operations by the Greek/USOG as well as a preface by Lieutenant General Korkas (ret.) and an introduction by Major General Ioannis Kakoudakis. Twenty thousand copies have been printed for distribution. [note]
General Korkas then presented a bronze medallion, a replica of the soldier statue, to the widows and relatives of the deceased veterans. He emphasized the monument has been the catalyst for the recognition of the American soldiers who fought in Greece in WWII.
Following the unveiling of the monument and the ceremonies, the Greek Military hosted a buffet for all the attendees.
The evening of 26 May, 2005, veterans, wives, widows, family members, and invited guests were received by the curators of the Military Museum in Athens. The military museum contains artifacts and histories from the battle at Marathon and the many battles of Alexander the Great to modern events. Plans are in progress to add the history of the Greek/USOG into the museum. (Updates about developments will be posted in the OSS web site.) These plans are the work of General Korkas; he has also produced and narrated a film of the history of the Greek/USOG which is in the Greek Military museum.
27 May, 2005, the veterans, widows and families were guests at the Special Forces Training Center for their graduates' oath-taking ceremony. The Special Forces Camp is located at the Saronikos Gulf where, in 480 BC, Themistocles destroyed the Persian Fleet at the great naval battle of Salamis. It is compulsory for every Greek young man to serve two years in the Armed Forces. The Special Forces, an elite army unit, were impressive. After the ceremony the Commanding General of the Special Forces hosted his guests to lunch.
Six groups of the Greek/USOG and one group of the Yugoslavian/USOGinfiltrated Greece in 1944, landing either amphibiously or by parachute, joining forces with the Greek resistance. The groups operated in various regions of northern Greece from May to November, 1944, disrupting the withdrawal of Axis forces. Co. C was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their outstanding battle record in Greece.
The genesis of the Greek/USOG is the 122nd Infantry Battalion, also known as The Greek Battalion, at Camp Carson, Colorado. The battalion was founded in January 1943 by a special executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. June, 1943. President Roosevelt and Chief of Staff General George Marshall made a historic visit to Camp Carson to review the Greek Battalion.
A reunion of the Greek/USOG veterans convened in Athens in 1994. General Korkas in 1995 contacted Andrew Mousalimas and requested information, artifacts, photos, memorabilia and newsletters of the Greek/USOG and began diligently to gather evidence about the American volunteers who fought on Greek soil in WWII.
1998, a Soldier Committee was organized in Oakland, California and appointed Mrs. Sophia Johnston as the chairperson. The purpose of the committee was to promote the monument, assure its accuracy, to raise the necessary funding for the statue. Veterans Nick H. Cominos, Alex P. Phillips (since deceased), and Andrew S. Mousalimas were invited to join the committee as eyewitness historians.
The Soldier Memorial Monument is a 1-meter bronze statue sculpted by the California artist, Mr. Andrew G. Saffas. To be sure the soldier statue would be accurate in all respects, Mr. Saffas spent hundreds of hours researching, consulting with military experts and USOG veterans, and procuring authentic uniform, gear and weapons.
The statue is positioned on a 2-meter marble base. A plaque is attached to the front of the base, listing the names of the volunteers. Another plaque is attached to the back of the base, listing the names of the donors.
Over the next few years, Andrew Saffas sent photos of the statue's work-in-progress to General Korkas and communicated with him by telephone. Mr. Saffas furthermore traveled numerous times to Greece with his wife, Niki, and Mrs Johnston to meet with General Korkas and inspect the possible sites for the monument.
Meanwhile Nick H. Cominos and Andrew S. Mousalimas, who were based on the island of Vis in the Adriatic in WWII, and were familiar with the Yugoslavian/USOG discovered significant details about this unit in the National Archives. They uncovered the names of thirty-two men of this unit who had entered Greece in 1944, as Group VII of the Greek/USOG. Twenty-eight of these men were Greek / Americans. Cominos and Mousalimas agreed the veterans of the Yugoslavian/USOG must be included on the plaque.
Andrew Saffas had finalized the plans for the plaque and was initially concerned that the additional names would alter the aesthetics of the monument, but agreed with Cominos and Mousalimas that it would be morally wrong to omit the names of the Yugoslavian/USOG and made the necessary adjustments to the plaque.
28 May, 2005, General Korkas hosted a dinner for the three veterans and their wives. We thanked him and told him we are deeply indebted to him. Without his diligence and determination the unveiling of the monument in Greece might never have taken place. He was sorry more veterans were not able to attend. The attrition rate of our veterans has taken a major toll in the past decade; the few veterans who are still alive and were interested in attending the festivities were not physically able to travel.
Nick Cominos, Angelo Lygizos, Andrew Mousalimas and Andrew Saffas refered to General Constantine Korkas as the Godfather of the veterans of the Greek/USOG.
We are particularly grateful to the Greek Military, who were terrific hosts and more importantly endorsed the placement of the monument of the Greek/USOG in the Armed Forces Park.
Very special thanks to Andrew Saffas and his wife Niki Saffas, and to Sophia Johnston and her committee.
Without these dedicated people the Greek/USOG and Yugoslavian/USOG might not have been recognized in Greece.
The history and valor of the USOG of WWII is one of the best kept secrets in America. The records were classified in the National Archives until 1988. As a result, the Greek people, with rare exception, did not know American soldiers had fought on Greek soil for the liberation of Greece. Recognition of the unit in Greece was of the utmost importance to the Greek/USOG veterans.
Andrew S. Mousalimas
Veteran, Co. C. 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion.
Korkas, Constantine, Gen. ret., The Greek-American Volunteers in the National Resistance, History of the Operations in Greece of the 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion (23 April - 20 November 1944), Military General Staff, Department of Military History (Athens, 2005).
Published in Greek as:
Κόρκας, Κωνσταντίνος, Ανγος ε.α., Οι Ελληνοαμερικανοί Εθελοντές στην Εθνική Αντίσταση : Ιστορικό των Επιχειρήσεων στην Ελλάδα του 2671 Ανεξάρτητου Ειδικού Τάγματος Αναγνωρίσεων (23 Απριλίου - 20 Νοεμβρίου 1944), Γενικό Επιτέλειο Στρατού, Διεύθυνση Ιστορίας Στρατού (Αθήνα, 2005).
The Greek / American Operational Groups' Valor Cited as Statue is Unveiled in Athens, Greece(PAHH.com, 2005), addendum in Greek / American Operational Group Office of Strategic Services (OSS): Memoirs of World War 2 (PAHH.com, 2004), available at http://www.pahh.com/oss/addendum/index.html.
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